Living Well & Ethan Allen Residence's  Applaud Results of Scandinavian Study Stating that Healthy Eating, Exercising and Socializing Could Ward off Alzheimer’s


Bristol, Vermont – January 1, 2015
– Dee Deluca, executive director and a cofounder of Living Well Residence in Bristol, Vermont, applauded researchers from Scandinavia, who have released a study showing that physical activity, nutritional guidance, cognitive training, socializing and other factors have been found to improve overall cognitive performance in seniors at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease (Published in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, January 18, 2013). The study results reinforce the belief that Living Well has held since opening a decade ago.

 “This is something that we, at Living Well, have known and been practicing for many years,” said DeLuca, who also oversees Ethan Allen Residence in Burlington, Vermont. “By eating whole foods, living in a social environment and keeping the mind alive through music, art, gardening and other endeavors, it improves quality of life and even quality of health. We feel the results of this study validate something that we’ve been saying—and putting into practice—for a decade.”

An estimated 5 million Americans ages 65 and older have Alzheimer’s, a progressive, irreversible cognitive disease that affects memory, cognitive skills and functioning. The risk of Alzheimer’s increases with age, with the number of sufferers doubling for every five-year interval after 65, according to the National Institute on Aging. 

The FINGER Study, which was presented to the attendees of the 2014 Alzheimer's Association International Conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark, is the result of a two-year clinical trial in Finland that revolved around 1,260 adults ages 60 to 77 at risk for cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's. The participants were placed in one of two groups. The intervention group incorporated nutritional guidance, physical exercise, cognitive training, management of
heart health risk factors and social activities. The control group was given health advice.

After 24 months, the intervention group performed significantly better on tests of memory,
the ability to plan and solve problems, speed of cognitive processing and more.

“This is the first randomized control trial showing that it is possible to prevent cognitive decline using a multi-domain intervention among older at-risk individuals. These results highlight the value of addressing multiple risk factors in improving performance in several cognitive domains,” said Miia Kivipelto, M.D., Ph.D., professor at the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden and the National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland, who reported on the study.

The results of the study quickly filled national and international headlines. But in Bristol and Burlington, it was business as usual. “This is proof positive that we need to continue doing what we’ve been doing,” says DeLuca, whose staff is in the process of conducting its own studies on the efficacy of holistic elder care.

Living Well operates under the leadership of a Naturopathic Medical Director, and works with 52 different local food suppliers to serve farm-to-table meals daily. Residents each consult with their own physicians, but the staff encourages a natural approach, when possible, even if that means something so simple as using an ice or heat pack in place of pain medication. The residences host Tai Chi and yoga classes and encourage exercise as an alternative to anxiety medication. The residents engage in cognitive stimulation through brain-benders/teasers and mental exercises.

Each residence strives for a natural, family-like setting, with spaces to socialize and build relationships. By creating a sense of community, the residents look out for one another and enjoy passing time together. Both residential care homes are guided by the philosophy of “dynamic governance,” also known as “sociocracy.” It’s a system of organization that originated in The Netherlands, and gives everyone in the community a voice, whether it’s the residents who live there, the housekeeping staff who works there or the executives.

DeLuca believes that Living Well’s approach will grow in demand in the future, supported not only by the recent study, but because it’s the way more and more aging men and women will choose to live. “By 2030, there will be 72 million men and women ages 65 and older in the U.S. That’s nearly double the number of 65-year-olds there were in 2000,” said DeLuca. “Those men and women are going to want to have a say in their own care. At Living Well, we’re ready to listen.”

Culinary Team at Living Well Residential Care Home and Ethan Allen Residence Honored with Vermont Health Care Association Award

Bristol, Vermont – December 2, 2014 – The Vermont Health Care Association has announced its annual award winners, and Chef David Francis at Ethan Allen Residence in Burlington and Chef Janet Makaris at Living Well Residential Care Home in Bristol are being recognized, state-wide, for their culinary contributions.
 
“We are honored to be distinguished by The Vermont Health Care Association, an organization that advocates on behalf of nursing, residential care and assisted living facilities,” said Dee DeLuca, executive director of Living Well Group, which oversees Living Well Residential Care Home and Ethan Allen Residence. “At both of our facilities, our chefs work hard to create truly tasty and incredibly healthy culinary delights that our residents look forward to three times a day, seven
days a week. To have that recognized on a state-wide level feels wonderful.”
 
The residences work with dozens of local food suppliers to serve locally sourced items, whenever possible. At every meal, a chalkboard lists the farms from which different products originate, as you’d find in a restaurant. This year, the facilities contracted with a farmer in Richmond to grow their vegetables. The farmer has welcomed the residents to visit his fields, where he answers questions and involves them in the farm-to-table experience.
 
By including more locally grown food, both chefs have created those hands-on opportunities, while driving costs down and satisfaction up among residents. Both residences serve nutritious, balanced meals, packed with flavor and variety.  
 
In addition to overseeing their kitchens, Francis and Makaris guide the gardening programs
at their respective facilities, helping the residents grow organic produce and herbs to include in meals.
 
Under the chefs’ leadership, both facilities have:
-       Eliminated processed foods and meal substitutes.
-       Replaced refined sugar in cooking with natural sweeteners, such as honey and
        maple syrup.
-       Included residents’ families by sharing treats and recipes and inviting them to meals  
        during major holidays.
-       Invited residents to plan their own birthday menu.
-       Advocated opening the dining room to all staff, at no cost to them.
 
“When we ask our residents what they enjoy most about living in our residences, ‘The wonderful food’ is a frequent response. That is all thanks to David and Janet,” says DeLuca. “They are exceptional gems, and we are most grateful to have them as our culinary
team leaders.”
 
The innovation of Living Well and Ethan Allen’s practices extends beyond food. Both residences operate under the leadership of a Naturopathic Medical Director, and, while patients each consult with their own physicians, the staff encourages a natural approach to health and healing, when possible, even if that means something so simple as using an ice or heat pack in place of pain medication. The residences host Tai Chi and yoga classes and encourage exercise as an alternative to anxiety medication. And the residents engage in cognitive stimulation through brain-benders/teasers and mental exercises. Each residence strives for a natural, family-like setting, with spaces to socialize and build relationships. By creating a sense of community, the residents look out for one another and enjoy passing
time together.

Mealtime at Living Well Care Home and the Ethan Allen Residence includes farm-to-table foods made from scratch, with a chalkboard list of which farms provided the ingredients. A naturopathic physician is the medical director, and yoga and Tai Chi classes are available to residents. Inspired by Feng-shui, the rooms have warm and inviting colors. Essential oils are used as cleaning products, all of which are nontoxic. What might sound like a high-end spa are two innovative senior care facilities in Bristol and Burlington, Vermont.


HOW TWO VERMONT RESIDENCES ARE CHANGING THE MODEL FOR ELDER CARE THROUGH A HOLISTIC APPROACH
To understand the way a senior care facility can transform in one year, talk to Sherry O’Grady. O’Grady, who is director of nursing with Ethan Allen Residence in Burlington, Vermont, has watched the facility transition from a traditional residence for seniors to its current role, operating as a holistic center focused on the health of the body, mind and spirit of its residents. “Here, they can flourish,” says O’Grady. “Because they’re encouraged.”

The changes began taking root in 2013, when Living Well purchased the facility. The non-profit has been operating Living Well Residential Care Home in Bristol, Vermont, for 10 years, and sought to expand its holistic model, which ensures healthy, home-cooked meals; offers a family-like setting that feels like home; leads activities that encouraged creativity and socializing; and encourages residents, when possible, to play a role in their own care.

The effects were immediate: Processed foods and meal substitute products were replaced with locally grown fare from area farms. Residents were encouraged to spend more time outside of their rooms, enjoying communal spaces and participating in hobbies, such as gardening. A calendar of regular activities circulated, such as painting classes, music classes, Tai Chi, trips to the mall for walking and more. And everyone was told that they had a voice—residents, housekeeping staff, kitchen workers and all. The facility would be governed by a model called dynamic governance, which encourages participation in decisions that impact the community.

Today, O’Grady says that the Ethan Allen looks like a different place. Thanks to consistent interaction and encouragement, she says that a number of residents have shown signs of improvement in being more independent, taking fewer medications, and expressing more interest in being a part of the greater Ethan Allen home. “We give them consistency in the routine, good care and encouragement to function at a level they weren’t able to function before,” says O’Grady. “And it’s working.”
 
***
According to the government report, “Older Americans 2010: Key Indicators of Well-Being,” by 2030, there will be 72 million men and women ages 65 and older in the U.S. That’s nearly double the number of 65-year-olds there were in 2000.

That, says Dee DeLuca, executive director and a cofounder of Living Well, is going to alter the landscape of residential care. “We have 10,000 people a day turning 65 for next 15 years,” she says. “Out of that, 20 percent, or 2,000 people a day are going to need some kind of oversight, some kind of care to meet their needs. That will be not in their home.”

DeLuca says that many of those people will be looking for an alternative to what’s considered the traditional care facility. She and a small group of community members founded Living Well in Bristol, Vermont, 10 years ago, for that very reason. She says it’s the kind of place that she would one day want to live.   

“I said if I need this kind of care, where would I go? Where would I find fresh and local food, yoga, Tai Chi and the choice to not take so many medications? And I realized there wasn’t anything like that out there,” says DeLuca. So she teamed up with five like-minded friends to create it.

Under the leadership of a naturopathic medical director, Living Well works with 52 different local food suppliers to serve farm-to-table meals (at every meal, a chalkboard lists the farms from which different items come, as you’d find in a restaurant) and the facility has managed to save money through the process, by striking up partnerships and buying in bulk. “The cost per day is lower than the national average,” says DeLuca.

While each resident consults with his or her own physician, the staff at the residence encourages a natural approach whenever possible. That could be as simple as using ice or heat packs in place of pain medications, or trying a natural anti-anxiety remedy coupled with tai chi, yoga or exercise. For many residents, it’s meant working with their physician to scrutinize the medications that they’ve been on for years—including oxygen—to determine if they are medically necessary any longer. In a number of cases, those doses have been stepped down or even taken away.

Because Living Well has only 15 beds, there’s a natural, family-like sensibility to the home. At Ethan Allen, the 34 rooms are grouped into “neighborhoods” to establish a similar small group setting. That way, says DeLuca, the residents have an easier time establishing relationships and feeling like a part of the community. “The higher functioning people keep an eye out for the more vulnerable people,” she says. “The men pull the chairs out for the women. No one gets lost in the crowd.”

DeLuca says that the guiding philosophy of “dynamic governance,” also known as “sociocracy,” is a system of organization that originated in The Netherlands, and gives everyone in the community a voice, whether it’s the residents who live there, the housekeeping staff who works there or the executives. It’s a system that involves transparency in how the facilities operate. It encourages people who work at all levels to suggest solutions. And, says DeLuca, it makes everyone accountable to themselves and each other. “When you have a system where all the voices in the organization have equal weight when it comes to policy, that actually encourages everyone to speak their mind.”

DeLuca says that operating in that fashion makes her job a pleasure. “What I’ve noticed after 10 years is I get to steer creativity, rather than discipline and be a policeman all the time,” she says.

Kathleen Hall, who is a nurse geriatric nurse practitioner and director of research with Living Well, says she’s seen the arts programs at the facilities make a difference in residents, particularly in those with dementia, who are struggling to communicate. “When we give them an opportunity to garden or to paint it allows a sense of self expression,” she says. “That lowers anxiety and it lowers depression.”  

***


"The care facility has snagged one of seven awards being given out this year by the Governor's Commission on Healthy Aging to facilities and individual providers in Vermont, earning the title of "Program Champion."
- Addison Independent

"Their drumming circle, the Living Well Family Band, originally began as another fun, engaging activity for the residents but soon evolved into a major focus and an avenue for outreach." - Vermont Health Care Association

"Providing compassionate care, building relationships and community, creating  a sense of purpose and encouraging wellness through prevention are an integral part of the fabric at Living Well, a nonprofit 15 bed accessable-living facility in Bristol." - Rutland Business Journal

"A key to keeping the residents happy is keeping their minds and bodies moving and interacting with others, said activities manager Dechen Rheault, another of the five founders. In many cases, musical and social activities pull non-responsive residents out of their proverbial shells and into the collective group social dynamic."
- Vermont Maturity

IN THE NEWS

 Award Winning • Healthful • Sustainable • Holistic • Community-Based


1200 North Ave, Burlington, VT · (802) 658-1573